A vehicle and a point of reference

One of the greatest things about the ancient world is its resilience. We no longer live in it, but its shadow is cast over all of us.

When the Roman empire collapsed in the West, there was only one thing which was given a new lease of life: language. Latin proved to be the most resilient feature of the ancient world. It was no longer the Latin of the ancients, either on people’s tongues or on the page. But it was still Latin, the thread by which an entire civilization held.

It’s hard to underestimate the importance of Latin in fashioning the modern world. One of the greatest sources of grief for historians is the low profile ancient language has in our understanding of where we come from. Say Latin to most people and they’ll wax rhetorical on a variation of its uselessness – or worse, the ordeal of learning it in school, for those lucky enough to have had it feature in their curriculum.

The source of all evils may not be ignorance, but ignorance certainly sits very close to the source.

Ignorance of where things come from, of how they developed and travelled the centuries, of how something that everyone took for granted in one age became the vehicle for growth and the lodestar in another, of how the very cultural air we breathe is the storm of a petty air blowing over the branches of a dark wood – this ignorance is something that can explain our lack of gratitude and equanimity, of measure and grace.

Only that which can’t be fully understood may be elected out for destruction.

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